In another move to roll back the Obama-era opening of Cuba to U.S. travelers and businesses, the U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered U.S. airlines to stop all flights to cities other than Havana within 45 days.
The change will affect flights to nine cities, including Santiago de Cuba, but will likely have little effect on actual business, since early optimism over booming business to Cuba fell flat, and was more recently crimped even further by restrictions banning all but specified group tours and Cuban relatives from going at all.
The largest number of U.S. travelers to Cuba chose traveling by cruise ship rather than by air because of real or perceived complexity in arranging lodging, meals and transportation in Cuba by individual travelers. That business is also now gone, with the tightened ban on U.S. travelers and an end to U.S. permission for ships to call in Cuba.
When airline rights to Cuba first opened up, many U.S. airlines applied for routes, but within months of being granted, airlines started dropping routes or opting for smaller planes; several dropped out of the market altogether. The two biggest carriers to Cuba are American Airlines and JetBlue; both will be dropping their routes to Santiago, Holguin, Santa Clara, Camaguey and Varadero, but will keep their Havana routes. American has six flights a day to the Cuban capital.
Photo: In happier times, when flights first opened.